By Randy Rowles | September 19, 2023.
The post-COVID era has brought many changes in the world we live in. In the aviation industry, one example of change is in the hiring processes for pilots and mechanics at levels we’ve not seen before. Flight crew experience requirements have dropped for senior aviation management positions — roles that often require a minimum level of experience according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards but have received exemptions and waivers instead.
The law enforcement (LE) aviation industry is not immune to this situation. Experienced pilots and mechanics are leaving the LE aviation field for other opportunities inside and outside of aviation. This void leaves a flight and maintenance experience gap that must be filled to sustain safe, efficient, and effective LE flight operations.
In some cases, the elephant in the room regarding pilots entering the LE aviation field is the cop or pilot first debate. Most LE agencies require pilots to serve as a road officer or deputy prior to filling an aviation position. I must admit that for years, I supported the fact that a civilian pilot could fulfill an LE pilot role, and in many cases, I still believe this to be the case. My position on this matter has changed, though.
A civilian pilot may have little to no understanding of the lonely feeling a single officer or deputy may have when faced with certain situations on the road and the comforting aspect that an airborne asset may bring. As an LE pilot, understanding the vocal change of an officer engaged on the ground only comes from experiencing similar situations at some level themselves. That is nearly impossible to teach solely from the comfort of an aircraft.
Many agencies are altering their hiring procedures, opting to hire civilian pilots…